NO: DELENG / 2017 / 70663
official media partner of national maritime foundation
Sofia Fürstenberg Stott Partner & Co-Founder Fürstenberg Maritime Advisory
By Sea and Coast | 04/02/2021

Sofia Fürstenberg Stott is a leading figure in the innovation- and sustainability sphere of the maritime industry. Through Fürstenberg Maritime Advisory, she and her partner focus on providing strategic pathways for the transformational journey towards decarbonisation, combining insights of innovation management, industry collaboration, operational risk management and intercultural communication. Some of her latest accomplishments include leading an industry consortium to develop a concept for the first green-ammonia ocean-going ship, via Global Maritime Forum, developing Nor-Shipping’s new concept exhibition Blue Economy, and launching its first Opening Oceans Conference, connecting the wider ocean industries in such context for the first time. Through her tenure as Innovation Portfolio Manager with Maersk, and as a green shipping spearhead with DNVGL, she has global presence and networks. She holds an MBA in Shipping & Logistics from Copenhagen Business School, an MSc in Chemical Engineering from Lund University, and was part of the first cohort to finish the Top Tech Executive Innovation Program at Haas Business School, UC Berkeley, back in 2009.

Is Decarbonisation too difficult to bring into strategy?

Ending the use of fossil fuel in maritime transport is not a small task. The fact that viable business cases for this transition are few and far apart does not help, of course. That conversations at the IMO are moving one step forward and two steps backward, like some weird Finnish jenka (A type of line dance where you take one step forward, one back, and three forward), doesn't make the prospect any better, either. That nobody is big enough to solve it alone, and that nobody knows when it will all be available as a simple procurement request, make most shipping companies unable to move even the slightest length forward.

Having followed closely the current progress of the many projects related to alternative fuels, PtX and the encouraging development also in wind, it is clear that solutions are going to be developed, and that investments in zero carbon infrastructure is at least in the starting block. Shipping CEO's are moving over to lead GHG-reducing NGOs and think tanks are throwing out position papers on how to move things forward. So obviously things are moving now.

A senior executive at an oil tanker company asked me recently what networks they should join. While this may be a relevant question to ask for sure, it may not be possible to provide the right answer. The strategic approach must always start with asking what do we need to do, in order to get to where we want to be? Unless you have that answered as a first priority, it doesn't matter then if you join "the best network", because that may not bring you the solutions you are looking for. This is just one example of the lack of strategic approach we experience time and time again, when engaging with representatives of the industry on the topic of decarbonisation.

A maritime CEO revealed over a phone call lately, that decarbonisation is "something we follow, but we are not making any investments", and that "it is already costing us a lot of money attending all these meetings [in networks]". When asking him directly if the topic of decarbonisation was so complex that it was perhaps avoided altogether in strategic conversations, he had to nod.

What is needed now is to, as quickly as possible, define pathways for the energy transition which could bring strategic benefit to a shipping company, or to other maritime players, or indeed, to adjacent industries altogether. With such a broader perspective in place, major roadblocks can suddenly to be removed. The quest for zero carbon is a systemic challenge, and benefits may therefore be systemic too. Strategic ambitions and perspectives must therefore include wideranging collaborative approaches, for decarbonisation to stand a chance for success.

The industry seems to meander in the illusion that as long as the zero carbon technologies are developed and commercialised, their shipping business will prosper. The quest for ending GHG in shipping by 2050, is to small extent a technology challenge. It is primarily a strategic challenge.

Using the analogy of Shackleton, while actors of the industry may see decarbonisation as a challenge so complex, likened to a ship stuck in Antarctic ice, they must not rely on just playing the game they know, even though it's keeping them warm. Getting out of that ice sheet will require taking a long-term view, coordinating all efforts, and staying focused on the goal while keeping a flexible mindset to what may appear on the horizon.

Decarbonisation will require strategic focus and agility. But most of all, it will require a fundamental shift in how shipping exists as a business. If you are not waking up to this reality soon, you may find yourself being left behind far sooner than you ever feared.

#Sea and coast